Review -- Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror
Horror is a genre that I really don’t feel like I’ve been able to fully sink my teeth into yet. I’m really a fantasy guy at heart, with a science-fed brain at the helm, and a soul that can’t help but love a good story. So while I don’t typically go out searching for new horror, I love coming across a new piece of horrific something that just hits my emotional buttons the right way. Of the several anthologies that we received via Ellen Datlow recently, this was the one I was initially most excited to read, even though I recognized the fewest number of names among the authorial inclusions. Someday I’m going to get my name (or pseudonym) in one of these things. Can’t wait for the day. Until then, I’m sure there’ll be a steady stream of them coming from the likes of Datlow and others. Each of them trying to lead its readers down a path that they might otherwise not necessarily want to visit, but are overwhelmingly compelled to, nonetheless. Some will succeed in fabulous fashion. Others, not so much. Depends on which buttons you like to have pushed and how hard. This anthology had a handful of those for me. Not as many as I might have liked, true. But enough that I really enjoyed what I found.
NIGHTMARES: A NEW DECADE OF MODERN HORROR is a horror short-story anthology published through Tachyon Press, and includes 24 individual short stories by an equally-large array of authors. This isn’t a themed anthology (even though some of the stories do deal with actual nightmares), but are instead just a gathering of horror short stories published between the years of 2005 and 2015 that struck the editor an awesomely-solid blow to her impact meter. It is, apparently, a “sequel” to the previously-published Darkness by the same editor.
As per my usual way of haunting these reviews, here’s my per-story ratings breakout:
- Loved: 6
- Liked: 3
- Liked and Hated: 1
- Mediocre: 3
- Didn’t Like: 6
- Hated: 0
The results of that spread were quite a bit more disparate than I’d expected, but that’s the way things go sometimes. My impact meter obviously differs from the editor in some respects, but there were still a pretty large number of really good stories for me in this one.
Some of my favorites:
“Shay Corsham Worsted” by Garth Nix: An old man that used to work for the secret police in England has been tasked with watching another “old man” that is really an experiment gone wrong. He’s only “safe” because he has a routine every day that he follows to the tee. One night, a thief breaks into the scary man’s place, and then things start to unravel. Soooooo good.
“The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud: A book thief with a rejected mob-boss relationship is brought back into the game because the mob boss says so. The thief is sent to retrieve a book that is supposed to be filled with the locations of artifacts from Hell, and the mob boss wants it. He sends a strong-man to tail the thief. Detail and setting and atmosphere on this one were phenomenal.
“The Goosle” by Margo Lanagan: Hansel of the fairy tale escapes the witch, but is picked up by a wandering thief that treats him most horribly as they travel the countryside. Eventually, they end up back at the door of the witch, and Hansel takes the opportunity to go looking for Gretel while the thief is otherwise indisposed. Freaky and creepy and yucky in the extreme.
“Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8)” by Caitlin R. Kiernan: Two twins on a murder spree travel across the southern US. Then someone gets the jump on them and tries to do to them what they’ve been doing to everyone else. Had a tough time getting into this one at first, but once I was in it was great.
In all honesty, I didn’t read all of the stories. I skipped one because it really wasn’t a story but instead written like a “report” about a bunch of photographs and had more footnotes in it than actual “report”. I just couldn’t force myself to get past the first or second page of that one.
Those I didn’t care for kind of ranged all over the map with excuses for me. They were all pretty solidly written, but just didn’t give me the prickles I look for when reading a good horror story. I’m in it for the atmosphere, and the “whoa” moment, and the character impact. Lacking these elements, stories that relay horrific ideas but miss “the good stuff” end up reading more like purely literary or even science-fiction idea-based stories, and pretty much turn me off to them lightning fast. Have a pretty narrow view of what good horror is, I guess. It’s likely a good thing that the editor can find enjoyment in those that I didn’t though, as there are likely lots of other readers that would like them just as much as I disliked ’em.
On the whole, this was a really good bunch of stories that I think lots of horror readers would be able to enjoy. Definitely worth the time I spent with it.
- Recommended Age: 18+
- Language: Lots of it
- Violence: Lots and lots
- Sex: No holds barred